Building a fire
Credit: Jason Schneider
A great campfire, whether it’s for cooking purposes or for entertaining, is an excellent example of the “Six P” rule: proper planning prevents piss-poor performance.

  • Pick a good site. Use an existing fire ring if possible. Otherwise, don’t make a circle of rocks and choose a low-trace site: beaches are better than bedrock; in the forest, pull back the top layer of soil.

  • Gather the materials. You’ll need wood of every size—from tiny twigs to arm-sized logs—the drier the better. Gather a little more than you think you’ll need.

  • Pile the wood according to size with the smallest, finger-thick or less, closest to the fire.

  • Tinder is key. This is where the fire will be born; it needs to be dry and contain small materials only. Dead spindly branches from the bottom of fir or spruce trees work really well. Birchbark is good, too. But our favourite is wood shavings, whittled from a stick, preferably cedar. Pile it all into a plate-sized bed and keep a similarly sized pile at hand.

  • Light it. Hold a match or lighter to the centre of the tinder pile until the flames start to grow. Now add more tinder to the pile and blow lightly to feed the flames.

  • Add fuel to the fire. Start with the small sticks in a teepee pattern. Once the wood is burning, add progressively larger pieces. But don’t rush. Dropping a big log on the fire could smother it.

  • Now it’s all about the fire’s purpose. If it’s for cooking or marshmallow roasting, add some bigger logs and let them burn into coals. For hippie TV, continue to feed the beast.

  • No-trace it. When the fire is out, pour several pots of water on the coals until there’s no more smoke. Double check: turn the ash. If it’s an established fire site, you’re good to go. If not, disperse the ash and any partially burned logs into the woods and cover up the fire scar with soil or sand.